Gluten Eucharist for Roman Catholics

A recent directive by the Vatican that bread used for the Eucharist should contain gluten will not affect Zimbabwe’s Roman Catholic congregations as the local church has always been compliant with the requirement.

Last month the Vatican said for bread taken for the Eucharist to be valid, it had to contain some gluten.

“At the request of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the congregation for divine worship and the discipline of the sacraments is writing to diocesan bishops (and to those who are their equivalents in law) to remind them that it falls to them above all to duly provide for all that is required for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

“It is for the bishop as principal dispenser of the Mysteries of God, moderator, promoter and guardian of the liturgical life in the church entrusted to his care, to watch over the quality of the bread and wine to be used at the Eucharist and also those who prepare these materials.

“In order to be of assistance we recall the existing regulations and offer some practical suggestions . . . Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist. Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread,” excerpts of the communication broadcast by Vatican Radio said.

This has raised concerns globally among Catholics who are allergic to gluten and those with celiac diseases.

But Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference secretary-general Father Fradereck Chiromba said, “I can confirm that the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe is compliant and has always been compliant. We have all the ingredients needed for the hosts and the wine.

“The church occasionally checks with the makers of altar wine in Zimbabwe to ensure compliance. If there is any concern or addition we let the wine-makers know.

“In this instance Zimbabwe is not affected by the new directive as we are already compliant.”

He added: “Grapes are not available in some countries and they have to import wine with the accompanying costs for importation. “It is, sometimes, these countries that come under a lot of pressure to improvise and hence the reminder to be faithful to the matter for the Eucharist.

“In Zimbabwe we make our own unleavened hosts with all the ingredients, including gluten. There are several Sisters’ Congregations that make hosts and also some lay people who have acquired the machines for making hosts.

“Altar wine, made according to the required standards, is readily available in most super-markets in Zimbabwe. The announcement encourages the local Church to constantly monitor compliance by those who provide our hosts and altar wine.”

Gluten is a composite of storage proteins which gives dough its elasticity, helping it to rise and keep its shape.

It ensures the hosts served at Eucharist do not break easily from the time they are made to the time they are received, unlike leavened bread.

The Catholic Church’s seven sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Confession, Anointing of the Sick, Ordination and Marriage.

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